In the world of typology, there are myths associated with each of the Myers and Briggs personalities. But one type in particular seems to get the most attention: the INFJ. Known as the rarest of all 16 types, INFJs are described as unique and mysterious. Some online sources go a step further and create a whole idealized narrative around the INFJ—making them sound far from human, which can lead to endless misconceptions.
Let’s separate fact from fiction, and explore how INFJs defy their stereotype.
1) Super empathetic? Not always
INFJs have a reputation for being very empathetic towards other people’s struggles and problems — we’re called Counselors, for a reason. Still, this doesn’t mean we want to help and nurture others all the time. As an INFJ, I’m aware that I can be too nice for my own good in certain situations, but I can also come across as cold to those who don’t know me well.
It’s true that INFJs have Extraverted Feeling (Fe) as their auxiliary function, which gives them a broad understanding of the feelings and needs of others. But it’s important to remember that INFJs actually lead with Introverted Intuition (Ni). This means that—most of the time—your INFJ is more interested in analyzing big picture problems than coming up with solutions to your family issues. We can be empathetic for sure, but only to a certain extent.
2) Yes, we crave recognition too
One of the things that most surprises people when they discover I’m an INFJ is how I hate being interrupted. I’ve now trained myself not to be so affected by it, but it used to drive me insane whenever people started talking over me, particularly if the topic at hand was something I was versed in.
I think it is because INFJs are famed for being good listeners. So, craving attention is not something you might immediately associate with this personality type. However, there’s an important distinction between desiring recognition, and being an attention-seeker.
INFJs are a private sort. But when it comes to our own ideals and passions, we deeply search for understanding. It’s a bit of a paradox, really. We are terrible at praising ourselves, but expect others to recognize when we do a good job. In addition, we can be very reserved, but seek people who understand our deepest motivations. In short: we’re good listeners but we can definitely crave recognition too.
3) Cool and collected, but only on the surface
As happens with many Introverts, people have always described me as quiet and soft. I remember working at an office where my colleagues would call me the ‘Zen’ member of the group. Apparently, to their eyes I exuded an infectious air of peace and calmness.
What they probably didn’t know is that my mind is racing all the time. INFJs may appear to be cool and collected on the surface, but on the inside there’s a lot going on. It’s no secret that INFJs enjoy spending time in their own little worlds, but sometimes it can feel like your brain is always on multitask mode.
As an INFJ, my mind is constantly wandering. I can be having a conversation with someone while simultaneously analyzing their body language, thinking about how they perceive me, or even briefly musing about what I’ll have for lunch. Most of the time, other people may not be aware that we’re having all these thoughts at once, but they do come up all the same.
4) Far from being the most outgoing Introverts
Another stereotype associated with INFJs is that we’re the most outgoing of all Introverts. While I can confirm that I’ve been mistaken for an Extravert a few times, I wouldn’t go as far as to say that INFJs are naturally more social than their Introvert peers.
Having Extraverted Feeling (Fe) as an auxiliary function means that INFJs are usually in-tune with other people’s emotions. We can typically read between the lines and empathize with what someone’s going through. Still, it doesn’t follow that your INFJ will be comfortable taking the initiative to strike up a conversation (especially when it comes to someone they don’t know very well, or at all).
In reality, Fe is also about following social norms, and fitting in. INFJs can care *a lot* about what others think of them, and dread making a fool of themselves. So, yes, as INFJs we can be bubbly and talkative with those closest to us. Yet, this type will rarely take the lead in large and unfamiliar social settings.
5) Sorry, but I can’t predict the future
This has to be one of the most absurd myths linked to the INFJ, but you can see it come up online all the time. I’m talking about the alleged gift INFJs possess of being able to predict the future with accuracy.
I don’t want to burst anyone’s bubble, but that simply isn’t true. Introvert Intuition (Ni) is indeed an INFJ’s main function. This means we spend a lot of time in our own heads and enjoy being intellectually stimulated. Seeing patterns, putting the pieces together, and drawing conclusions is the way an INFJ’s mind typically operates.
However, that doesn’t mean INFJs can predict the future, or that this type somehow has a better, farther-reaching vision than other personalities. In fact, the opposite can happen. Once an INFJ has formed an intuition about something, we can hold onto it so strongly, that we may become single-minded in our focus, missing out on what’s right in front of us.
The world of an INFJ is always full of possibilities, and ideas, which means we usually think far-ahead in the future. Yet, we don’t respond very well when our intuitions are challenged, which can sometimes lead us to miss what's going on underneath the lines.
The bottom line
INFJs are statistically the rarest of the 16 personality types, which leads many online sources to create an idealized narrative around this personality, spreading myths and misconceptions galore. While the specific combination of cognitive functions of an INFJ is indeed uncommon, INFJs have weaker traits like any other personality. They are not any more or less special than other types; they’re just themselves.